|Directed by||Baz Luhrmann|
|Music by||Craig Armstrong|
|Cinematography||Donald M. McAlpine|
|Edited by||Jill Bilcock|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$179.2 million|
Moulin Rouge! (/ /, French: [mulɛ̃ ʁuʒ]) is a 2001 jukebox musical romantic drama film directed, co-produced, and co-written by Baz Luhrmann. The film tells the story of a young English poet/writer, Christian (Ewan McGregor), who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). It uses the musical setting of the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France. The film is the third part of Luhrmann's "Red Curtain Trilogy," following Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet.
At the 74th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Nicole Kidman, winning two: for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. It was the first musical nominated for Best Picture in 10 years, following Disney's Beauty and the Beast. In BBC's 2016 poll of the greatest films since 2000, Moulin Rouge! ranked 53rd.
In 1900 Paris, a man named Christian, who is suffering from depression, begins writing his story ("Nature Boy"). One year earlier, he moves to the Montmartre district to join the Bohemian movement. Meeting a troupe of performers led by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Christian helps them finish their show, Spectacular Spectacular, to sell to Harold Zidler, owner of the Moulin Rouge. They arrive at the Moulin Rouge as Zidler and his "Diamond Dog Dancers" perform ("Zidler's Rap Medley/Can Can Dance"). Toulouse arranges for Christian to present the work to Satine, the star courtesan, unaware that Zidler has promised Satine to the Duke of Monroth, his potential investor ("Sparkling Diamonds").
Satine mistakes Christian for the Duke, and they dance before retiring to her chamber ("Rhythm of the Night", "Meet Me in the Red Room"), but she learns he is merely a writer ("Your Song"). The Duke interrupts, and Christian and Satine claim they were rehearsing Spectacular Spectacular. Aided by Zidler, Toulouse, and the troupe, they pitch the show to the Duke, improvising a plot about an evil maharajah attempting to woo an Indian courtesan who loves a poor sitar player ("The Pitch (Spectacular Spectacular)"). The Duke backs the show, provided that only he may court Satine. Satine contemplates Christian and her longing to become "a real actress" ("One Day I'll Fly Away"). Christian returns, and he and Satine fall for each other ("Elephant Love Medley").
As the cabaret is converted to a theater, Christian and Satine meet under the pretense of rehearsing. When the suspicious Duke threatens to stop financing the show, Zidler arranges for Satine to dine with the Duke, but she falls ill from tuberculosis ("If I should die (Górecki)"). Zidler tells the Duke that Satine has gone to confession ("Like a Virgin"). Zidler learns from the doctor treating Satine that she does not have long to live, but keeps this from Christian. Satine tells Christian their relationship endangers the show, but he writes a song to affirm their love ("Come What May").
Nini, a jealous performer, reveals to the Duke that the play is a metaphor for Christian, Satine, and the Duke. The Duke demands the ending be changed to the courtesan choosing the maharajah; Satine offers to spend the night with him to keep the original ending. At the Duke's quarters, Satine sees Christian on the streets below, and realizes she cannot sleep with the Duke ("El Tango de Roxanne (Roxanne)"). The Duke attempts to rape her, but the dancer Le Chocolat saves her. Christian urges Satine to run away with him. The Duke tells Zidler he will have Christian killed if Satine is not his. Zidler warns Satine, but when she refuses, he informs her that she is dying ("A Fool to Believe"). Zidler explains that to save Christian's life, Satine must reject him ("The Show Must Go On"). Barred from the Moulin Rouge, Christian is heartbroken, though Toulouse insists Satine does love him.
The night of the show, Christian sneaks into the Moulin Rouge, intending to pay Satine her fee as a courtesan ("Hindi Sad Diamonds"). He confronts her backstage, but they find themselves in the spotlight; Zidler convinces the audience that Christian is the sitar player in disguise. Christian denounces Satine and walks off the stage. From the rafters, Toulouse declares, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return", spurring Satine to sing the song Christian wrote to express their love. Christian returns to the stage, joining her in the song. The Duke orders his bodyguard to kill Christian, but is thwarted, while Zidler stops the Duke's own attempt. The Duke storms out as Christian and Satine complete their song ("Come What May (Reprise)", "Coup d'État (Finale)").
After the curtain closes, Satine succumbs to tuberculosis. Before she dies, Christian and Satine affirm their love and she tells him to write their story. A year later, the Moulin Rouge has closed down and is left in disrepair, and Christian finishes writing the tale of his love for Satine, a "love that will live forever" ("Nature Boy (Reprise)").
- Nicole Kidman as Satine
- Ewan McGregor as Christian
- Jim Broadbent as Harold Zidler
- Richard Roxburgh as The Duke of Monroth
- John Leguizamo as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Jacek Koman as The Unconscious Argentinean[a]
- Caroline O'Connor as Nini
- Kerry Walker as Marie
- Lara Mulcahy as Môme Fromage
- Garry McDonald as The Doctor
- Matt Whittet as Erik Satie
- Keith Robinson as Le Pétomane
- David Wenham as Audrey
- Kiruna Stamell as La Petite Princesse
- DeObia Oparei as Le Chocolat
- Kylie Minogue as The Green Fairy
- Peter Whitford as The Stage Manager
- Linal Haft as Warner
Writing and inspiration
Moulin Rouge! was influenced by an eclectic variety of comic and melodramatic musical sources, including the Hollywood musical, "vaudeville, cabaret culture, stage musicals, and operas." Its musical elements also allude to Luhrmann's earlier film Strictly Ballroom.
Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème, which Luhrmann directed at the Sydney Opera House in 1993, was a key source of the plot for Moulin Rouge!. Further stylistic inspiration came from Luhrmann's encounter with Bollywood films during his visit to India while conducting research for his 1993 production of Benjamin Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream. According to Luhrmann:
. . . we went to this huge, ice cream picture palace to see a Bollywood movie. Here we were, with 2,000 Indians watching a film in Hindi, and there was the lowest possible comedy and then incredible drama and tragedy and then break out in songs. And it was three-and-a-half hours! We thought we had suddenly learnt Hindi, because we understood everything! We thought it was incredible. How involved the audience were. How uncool they were – how their coolness had been ripped aside and how they were united in this singular sharing of the story. The thrill of thinking, 'Could we ever do that in the West? Could we ever get past that cerebral cool and perceived cool.' It required this idea of comic-tragedy. Could you make those switches? Fine in Shakespeare – low comedy and then you die in five minutes. . . . In Moulin Rouge, we went further. Our recognisable story, though Orphean in shape, is derived from Camille, La Boheme – whether you know those texts or not, you recognise those patterns and character types.
In the DVD's audio commentary, Luhrmann revealed that he also drew from the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice. The legend of Orpheus says he was a musical genius, far surpassing anyone in his world; the filmmakers chose to replicate this by using songs from the mid- to late 20th century, many decades after the film's 1899 setting. In this way, Christian would appear to the other characters to be ahead of his time as a musician and writer.
Commentators have also noted the similarities between the film's plot and those of the opera La Traviata and Émile Zola's novel Nana. Other cinematic elements appear to have been borrowed from the musical film Cabaret.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who worked with Luhrmann on Romeo + Juliet, auditioned for the role of Christian. Luhrmann also considered younger actors for the role, including Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal before Ewan McGregor won the part. Courtney Love auditioned for the role of Satine and assisted in clearing licensing rights for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to be used in the film.
Production began in November 1999 and was completed in May 2000, with a budget of $50 million. Filming generally went smoothly, with the only major problem occurring when Kidman injured her ribs twice while filming one of the more complicated dance sequences and also suffered from a torn knee cartilage resulting from a fall during the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" production song; she also stated in an interview with Graham Norton that she broke a rib while getting into a corset, by tightening it as much as possible to achieve an 18-inch waist. The production also overran in its shooting schedule and had to be out of the Fox Studios in Sydney to make way for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (in which McGregor also starred). This necessitated some pick-up shots being filmed in Madrid.
In the liner notes to the film's Special Edition DVD, Luhrmann writes that "[the] whole stylistic premise has been to decode what the Moulin Rouge was to the audiences of 1899 and express that same thrill and excitement in a way to which contemporary movie-goers can relate." Both Roger Ebert and The New York Times compared the film’s editing and cinematography to that of a music video and noted its visual homage to early Technicolor films.
Marsha Kinder describes Moulin Rouge! as a "brilliant," "celebratory," and "humorous" musical and aural pastiche due to its use of diverse songs. According to the liner notes to the film's Special Edition DVD, Moulin Rouge! takes well-known popular music, mostly drawn from the MTV Generation, and anachronizes it into a tale set in a turn-of-the-century Paris cabaret. Kinder holds that keeping borrowed lyrics and melodies intact "makes it almost impossible for spectators to miss the poaching [of songs] (even if they cannot name the particular source)." Some of the songs sampled include "Chamma Chamma" from the Hindi movie China Gate, Queen's "The Show Must Go On" (arranged in operatic format), David Bowie's rendition of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy", "Lady Marmalade" by Labelle (the Christina Aguilera/P!nk/Mýa/Lil' Kim cover commissioned for the film), Madonna's "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin", Elton John's "Your Song", the titular number of The Sound of Music, "Roxanne" by The Police (in a tango format using the composition "Tanguera" by Mariano Mores), and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. The film uses so much popular music that it took Luhrmann almost two years to secure all the rights to the songs.
Release and reception
Originally set for release on Christmas 2000 as a high-profile Oscar contender, 20th Century Fox eventually moved the release of Moulin Rouge! to Spring 2001 to allow Luhrmann more time in post-production. Moulin Rouge! premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival on May 9, 2001 as the festival's opening title.
Moulin Rouge! opened in the United States at two theaters in New York and Los Angeles on May 18, 2001. It grossed US$167,540 on its opening weekend. The film then expanded to a national release on June 1, 2001. Moulin Rouge! has grossed $57,386,369 in the United States and Canada and another $121,813,167 internationally (including $26 million in the United Kingdom and $3,878,504 in Australia).
Moulin Rouge! received generally positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert rated the film 3.5 stars out of 4, remarking that "the movie is all color and music, sound and motion, kinetic energy, broad strokes, operatic excess." Newsweek praised McGregor’s and Kidman’s performances, stating that "both stars hurl themselves into the movie's reckless spirit, unafraid of looking foolish, adroitly attuned to Luhrmann's abrupt swings from farce to tragedy. (And both sing well.)" The New York Times wrote that "the film is undeniably rousing, but there is not a single moment of organic excitement because Mr. Luhrmann is so busy splicing bits from other films" but conceded that "there's nothing else like it, and young audiences, especially girls, will feel as if they had found a movie that was calling them by name." All Things Considered commented the film was "not gonna be for all tastes" and that "you either surrender to this sort of flamboyance or you experience it as overkill."
Moulin Rouge! holds a rating of 66/100 at Metacritic based on 35 reviews. At Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 76% "Fresh" rating based on 199 reviews, with the critics’ consensus saying, "A love-it-or-hate-it experience, Moulin Rouge is all style, all giddy, over-the-top spectacle. But it's also daring in its vision and wildly original." In December 2001, the film was named the best film of the year by viewers of Film 2001. Entertainment Weekly ranked it #6 on its list of the top ten movies of the decade, saying, "Baz Luhrmann's trippy pop culture pastiche from 2001 was an aesthetically arresting ode to poetry, passion, and Elton John. It was so good, we'll forgive him for Australia." In 2008, Moulin Rouge! was ranked #211 on Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
Several commentators have interpreted Moulin Rouge! as an exemplar postmodern film. Kathryn Conner Bennett and Mina Yang hold that the film satisfies the postmodern paradigm described by Jim Collins through its aesthetic expression. Elaborating on this, Conner Bennett states that Moulin Rouge! utilizes Collins' concept of "the array," in which signs and symbols are recycled to engender "postmodern cultural life." She argues that Luhrmann’s use of familiar "narrative elements" (such as popular songs) in the film requires viewers to employ "hypertextuality" to understand and interpret the work, and that not all audiences would be able to make the "cognitive leap" required to create meaning from the narrative. According to Yang, Moulin Rouge! "serve[s] as [a critique] of both avant-garde élitism and stuffy traditionalism" by combining and alluding to different forms of "élite" and "pop" art.
The film’s music forms the foundation of its postmodern aesthetic. Marsha Kinder and Mina Yang have noted Moulin Rouge!'s reflexivity as a movie musical, holding that the film incorporates a variety of genre conventions (including "comedy, parody, and satire") along with a significant amount of added irony. Notably, Moulin Rouge! combines mid-to-late 20th Century melodies and lyrics with a narrative set in fin de siècle France, a locale Kinder identifies as "the proverbial international center for modernism." "The gap in historical periods (between the supposed vintage of [Luhrmann’s] characters and the obvious youth of their songs) freely acknowledges the contemporary nature of this vision of Parisian modernism without any trace of nostalgia." Yang notes that Luhrmann "delights in pointing out the difference between the original and the simulation" with regard to the film’s soundtrack. Kinder contends that the "renarrativized lyrics are never disturbing, for they are usually more innocent here than in their original source, and that’s precisely the point." The use of famous popular songs in a new, original context requires audiences to reinterpret their significance within the framework of the narrative and challenge the assumption that music’s symbolism is static.
Moulin Rouge! also makes ample use of other postmodern filmmaking techniques, including fragmentation and juxtaposition. As the film’s protagonist, Christian is the primary source of the story line of Moulin Rouge! and many portions of the story are told from his point of view. However, the narrative is fragmented on several occasions when the film deviates from Christian’s perspective or integrates a flashback. Moulin Rouge! also juxtaposes a play-within-a-film (Spectacular Spectacular) with the film’s events themselves to draw parallels between the plot of the play and the characters’ lives. This culminates in the "Come What May" sequence, which reveals the development of Christian and Satine’s relationship alongside the progression of the rehearsals of Spectacular Spectacular.
Postmodernism in Moulin Rouge! is also evident in its homage to "the international scope of the musical," says Kinder, citing the influence of Bollywood masala films alongside Western filmmaking genres on the film’s overall style. The film is also heavily indebted to Strictly Ballroom, which she characterizes as a "transcultural concoction." The celebration of the cross-cultural aesthetic in Moulin Rouge! "also extends to globalizing postmodernist spin-offs like [the] music video."
Yang states that the plot, style, and themes of Moulin Rouge! serve as a foundation for understanding ways in which "sex, class, exoticism, authorship and performance" are represented in stage and film. The film’s blending of opera and Hollywood musical enables its interpretation through the "feminist, poststructuralist, and postcolonial" lenses of contemporary opera scholarship. Yet, despite the film’s postmodern stylings, Conner Bennett argues that Moulin Rouge! is not a feminist text because it "ultimately upholds the patriarchical execution of the female muse, which allows the male artist to create art via her death."
Awards and honors
The film was selected by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2001. It picked up six Golden Globe nominations including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (for Nicole Kidman), Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (for Ewan McGregor), Best Original Score (for Craig Armstrong), Best Director (for Baz Luhrmann) and Best Song ("Come What May"). It won three including the coveted Best Picture trophy. A few weeks later, it received 12 nominations at the BAFTA Awards, making it the most nominated film of the year for that ceremony. It took home three, including Best Supporting Actor for Jim Broadbent.
The film received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Picture. The film was not nominated for Best Director (Luhrmann); commenting on this during the Oscar ceremony, host Whoopi Goldberg remarked, "I guess Moulin Rouge! just directed itself." The film won the awards for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.
"Come What May" (the only original song in the film) was disqualified from nomination for an Oscar because it was originally written (but unused) for Luhrmann's previous film Romeo + Juliet and not written expressly for Moulin Rouge!.
- Nature Boy – Toulouse
- Complainte de la Butte/Children of the Revolution
- The Sound of Music – Toulouse, Christian, and Satie
- Green Fairy Medley (The Sound of Music/Children of the Revolution/Nature Boy) – Christian, The Bohemians, and the Green Fairy
- Zidler's Rap Medley (Lady Marmalade/Zidler's Rap/Because We Can/Smells Like Teen Spirit) – Zidler, Moulin Rouge Dancers, Christian and Patrons
- Sparkling Diamonds (Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend/Material Girl) – Satine and Moulin Rouge Dancers
- Rhythm of the Night – Moulin Rouge Dancers
- Sparkling Diamonds (Reprise) – Satine
- Meet Me in the Red Room
- Your Song – Christian
- Your Song (Reprise) – Satine
- The Pitch - Spectacular Spectacular – Zidler, Christian, Satine, The Duke, and Bohemians
- One Day I'll Fly Away – Satine and Christian
- Elephant Love Medley – Christian and Satine
- Górecki – Satine
- Like a Virgin – Zidler, The Duke, and Chorus Boys
- Come What May – Christian, Satine, the Argentinean and Cast of Spectacular Spectacular
- El Tango de Roxanne – The Argentinean, Christian, Satine, The Duke, and Moulin Rouge Dancers
- Fool to Believe – Satine
- One Day I'll Fly Away (Reprise) – Satine and Zidler
- The Show Must Go On – Zidler, Satine, and Moulin Rouge Stagehands
- Hindi Sad Diamonds (Chamma Chamma/Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend) – Toulouse, Nini Legs-in-the-Air, Satine, and the Cast of Spectacular Spectacular
- Come What May (Reprise) – Satine and Christian
- Coup d'État/Finale (The Show Must Go On/Children of the Revolution/Your Song/One Day I'll Fly Away/Come What May) – Christian, Satine, and Cast of Spectacular Spectacular
- Nature Boy (Reprise) – Toulouse and Christian
The following is a partial list of songs featured in the film along with the artist that popularized them.
- "Nature Boy" – Nat King Cole, covered by David Bowie and remixed by Massive Attack for the soundtrack.
- "The Sound of Music" – Mary Martin (and later by Julie Andrews) (from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical of the same name, featuring overdubbed theremin played by Bruce Woolley)
- "The Lonely Goatherd" – also from The Sound of Music (but heard as instrumental)
- "Lady Marmalade" – Labelle, covered for the film, (by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, Missy Elliott, and Pink)
- "Because We Can" – Fatboy Slim
- "Complainte de la Butte" – Georges Van Parys and Jean Renoir covered by Rufus Wainwright
- "Rhythm of the Night" – DeBarge
- "Material Girl" – Madonna
- "Smells Like Teen Spirit" – Nirvana
- "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" – Introduced by Carol Channing, made popular by Marilyn Monroe.
- "Diamond Dogs" – David Bowie covered for the film by Beck.
- "Galop Infernal (Can-can)" – Jacques Offenbach (tune for Spectacular, Spectacular)
- "One Day I'll Fly Away" – The Crusaders, later Randy Crawford
- "Children of the Revolution" – T.Rex (Covered by Bono, Gavin Friday, Violent Femmes, and Maurice Seezer)
- "Gorecki" – Lamb
- "Come What May" – Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (written by David Baerwald)
- "Roxanne" – The Police (Title in film: "El Tango de Roxanne", combined with music "Tanguera" by Mariano Mores)
- "Tanguera" – Mariano Mores (Title in film: "El Tango de Roxanne", combined with music "Roxanne" by The Police)
- "The Show Must Go On" – Queen
- "Like a Virgin" – Madonna
- "Your Song" – Elton John
- "Chamma Chamma" – Alka Yagnik (Incorporated in the film song titled "Hindi Sad Diamonds"; originally performed by Alka Yagnik in the 1998 Hindi film China Gate, composed by Anu Malik).
- Elephant Love Medley
The following is a list of songs featured in the medley, along with the names of the writers and singers of the original.
- "Love Is Like Oxygen" by Sweet – Andy Scott and Trevor Griffin
- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" by The Four Aces – Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster
- "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles – John Lennon and Paul McCartney
- "I Was Made for Lovin' You" by Kiss – Desmond Child, Paul Stanley, Vini Poncia
- "One More Night" by Phil Collins – Phil Collins
- "In the Name of Love" by U2 – U2
- "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and later Thelma Houston – Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, and Cary Gilbert
- "Silly Love Songs" by Wings – Paul McCartney
- "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes – Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie
- "Heroes" by David Bowie – David Bowie
- "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton and later Whitney Houston – Dolly Parton
- "Your Song" by Elton John – Elton John and Bernie Taupin
The "Elephant Love Medley" also contains additional original lyrics by Italian pop tenor Alessandro Safina.. "Love Is Like Oxygen" and "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" are only spoken dialogue, they are not actually sung in the medley.
In the Blu-ray release, it was revealed that the song that was planned to open the film was originally Cat Stevens' "Father and Son", sung by Christian where he argues with his father for making him see that he has to go to Paris in order to make his dreams come true. Cat Stevens refused the permission for using the song in the film, therefore the song was changed to "Nature Boy".
Two soundtrack albums were released, with the second coming after the first one's massive success. The first volume featured the smash hit single "Lady Marmalade", performed by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and Pink. The first soundtrack, Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, was released on 8 May 2001, with the second Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, Vol. 2 following on 26 February 2002.
In 2002–2003, there was speculation about the possibility of a stage musical based on Moulin Rouge!, possibly in Las Vegas, but there had been no public talks in the years since. Some sources claimed in 2006 that the director, Baz Luhrmann, had approached the leads of the film, Kidman and McGregor, to star in the potential stage version. In 2008, a stage adaptation, La Belle Bizarre du Moulin Rouge (The Bizarre Beauty of the Moulin Rouge) toured Germany and produced a cast recording.
In 2016, it was announced that a stage musical was being developed by Global Creatures, with direction by Alex Timbers. Moulin Rouge: The Musical premiered on 10 July 2018 at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, MA. The book is written by John Logan with direction by Alex Timbers. It is starring Aaron Tveit as Christian and Karen Olivo as Satine. The Broadway production began previews at the Al Hirscheld Theatre on 28 June 2019, and officially opened on 26 July.
In popular culture
In the 2017–18 figure skating season, at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Canadian skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir performed two selections from Moulin Rouge!, interpreting the story of Christian and Satine through "The Show Must Go On", "El Tango de Roxanne" and "Come What May". Their performance won the Gold in the team and the individual events. At this event, Virtue and Moir became the most decorated skaters of all time.
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- This character is often referred to as The Narcoleptic Argentinean, as he does not spend his entire time on screen unconscious. However, the film and its credits refer to this character as The Unconscious Argentinean.
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